Doctors, jubilee doctors and honorary doctors,
This is a celebration, a special day for you and for Lund University, a really successful university, and on its behalf I would like to welcome you to Lund Cathedral and today’s ceremony in your honour.
To our international guests, especially to our honorary doctors: A warm welcome to all of you to this wonderful cathedral. Our University had its beginnings here. After the King’s decision in December 1666, Lund University started to operate in January 1668. We are therefore planning to celebrate our 350th anniversary from 2016 to 2018. Today is a day of joy and academic celebration. It is a true demonstration of the international character of our university and our research community. We are proud to have you as our guests today and we hope to further develop our contact with you. An English version of my speech is available for our international guests and the printed programme also contains some information in English about this academic celebration.
New doctors. I turn first to you, doctors who during the past year have presented your theses and now, finally, are sitting here. You have put a lot of work into your research and have had a long journey to reach this point. The path has not always been straight, because research isn’t. No, it is winding and difficult and full of challenges, disappointments and hard work, as well as a lot of joy. It is often fun and enjoyable and full of surprises. It can make a difference and provide opportunities, to quote our strategic plan, to: understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition. Isn’t it an unparalleled experience and a great privilege to work in research?
Many thanks to all of you for the work you have put in. You are responsible for a large part of the University’s outstanding success and I hope each and every one of you think it has been worth the effort to become a doctor at Sweden’s largest and strongest university. Lund University also extends a special thanks to your families and friends, many of whom are here today, for the support they have given and the sacrifices they have had to make along the road to the PhD and the conferment ceremony.
Honorary doctors, friends of the university and our guests of honour today. You have also made a major contribution to the University’s success, as advisers, role models and sources of inspiration. Welcome into the community of researchers linked to our university. I hope that your relationship to us and the faculties you represent continues to develop. Your knowledge and your commitment are exceedingly valuable to us and collaboration with leading international partners is among the most important activities for the University’s continued journey towards success, development and becoming a world-class university that works to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition. Allow me also to thank the faculties, which year after year demonstrate an outstanding ability to award honorary doctorates to such worthy, inspiring and exciting individuals.
Jubilee doctors; today Lund University honours you. Just think what a journey you have experienced and what you have meant over the years to the business sector, society and Lund University, your Alma Mater – and think what paths you have trodden during the half century since your doctoral conferment ceremony. We are pleased to see a number of you who gained your PhDs 50 years ago here today. Thank you for the work you have done and for coming today. We also remember those who today should have been here as jubilee doctors but who are no longer with us. They are honoured with a laurel wreath here in the Cathedral.
If you look back on the journey Lund University has made, we really are a successful university. Nowadays, a number of different global university rankings are published. We generally rank among the top 100 universities in the world, and in some fields we particularly stand out, such as geography and environmental science, in which we are at numbers 21 and 31 respectively in the QS World University Rankings. We are the most popular university in Sweden for international students. For Master’s programmes starting in the autumn semester 2014, 1 650 international students have been admitted, of whom 750 are non-European students who have to pay tuition fees.
The total number of applicants also continues to increase. Since 2009, the number of applicants for the autumn semester has increased by a total of 40% and is now over 70 000. If we add applications for the spring semester, the number of applicants in a year is over 100 000! Despite the high number of applicants, the Government has chosen to reduce its allocation of places and funding for undergraduate education to our university. This in combination with the sharp increase in applicants per place means that we now have to turn away qualified students applying to programmes and courses that are attractive to employers. A number of them find that their alternative is unemployment. I find this policy incomprehensible. An international comparison shows that Sweden’s competitiveness has fallen, as more and more OECD countries now have a larger proportion of the population who go on to higher education. We have dropped from number 5 to number 9 in the OECD, which is why higher education should be expanded instead. Countries like South Korea, and also Norway, are performing better than us. Higher education is a very good investment, both for society and for the individual, and it is not all that costly to society either. The reduction in VAT on restaurant food cost around SEK 5 billion. For this, higher education could be expanded by an amount corresponding to twice Lund University’s undergraduate and Master’s education, or higher education for 60–70 000 students.
During my five years as vice-chancellor, Lund University’s development in research has been almost unreal, and this is of course largely due to work carried out many years ago. Over these five years, the University has grown by over 1 700 employees and around SEK 2 billion in annual turnover! The growth can largely be attributed to research funding that we have won in open competition and we now have around 7 500 staff and a turnover of SEK 7.5 billion. This growth over five years is so high that it is equivalent to more than one Karlstad University, or one Linnaeus University or Malmö University. It is almost hard to grasp and we now need to expand our premises.
It is you who are here and our friends near and far who have made this possible. Our strategy is to work with cross-disciplinary collaboration and interaction with different partners in business and society, regionally, nationally and internationally. We are very grateful for the good collaboration within Lärosäten Syd, within the leading European university network LERU, which includes Oxford and Cambridge, and within the global network Universitas 21, as well as locally with Lund Municipality and Region Skåne in a range of areas. In Skåne we have created FIRS, the Skåne Research and Innovation Council, in which we draw up joint strategies and undertake joint initiatives, such as the establishment of Medicon Village following AstraZeneca’s closure in Lund and the formation of the cloud technology institute MAPCI following the change of ownership and strategy at SONY and Ericsson. We want to be an active and welcoming university with a growing proportion of international students and teaching and research staff. That is the only way we can become, as it says in our strategic plan, a world-class university that works to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.
With the opportunities, strength and freedom that we have comes a responsibility and expectations from business and society. I am therefore pleased and hopeful for the future, because I know that our university engages with a range of global and local issues from different academic perspectives. These include environmental and energy issues, housing for both students and the homeless, and human rights. We hold open debates and interesting conferences. Not long ago, we held a conference on social innovations, at which the keynote speaker was Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his micro-loans initiative. He is an inspiring speaker, individual and role model. We were inspired to highlight the students’ credit union, which was started back in 1922 and today provides micro-loans to our students to help them avoid the dreadful SMS loans with extortionate rates of interest.
A lot is happening around our university. MAX IV is under construction and will be opened in 2016, on the lightest day of the year, 21 June. We have put in a request to the Government to buy out the entire facility from PEAB/Wihlborg into national ownership in order to lower the costs by SEK 20–30 million a year. This will give us the possibility to construct a building to house a future free electron laser. The planning of ESS, the European Spallation Source, is in full swing. We hope that all the funding and the environmental permits will be in place shortly so that construction can start in the early autumn.
We have a strong university with rich and varied activities. Lund University has eight faculties, a range of specialised centres, around 30 research groups who are at the very forefront worldwide, and a leading university library. MAX IV is another world-leading part of the University, and the Botanical Gardens, the Museum of the Artistic Process and Public Art, the Historical Museum and Odeum music centre also belong to Lund University. Vattenhallen is a successful science centre that aims to awaken an interest in science and higher education among children and young people.
As it says in our strategic plan, the University works to improve our world and the human condition. Let me give a few examples. A range of innovations have their origins at Lund University: Gambro’s dialysis technology, the use of ultrasound in medicine, the asthma drug Bricanyl, Nicorette to help smokers quit, Bluetooth for short-range wireless communication, Hövding – an invisible bicycle helmet, solar cells using nanotechnology, a covering against mould, Aptiless to suppress feelings of hunger. We have Ideon, Sweden’s oldest and largest science park with over 300 companies. The School of Social Work at Lund University is playing an instrumental role in getting the efficient Housing First method implemented more widely to help deal with the problem of homelessness in our country. The Humanities Laboratory, headed by Professor Marianne Gullberg, makes new findings related to language learning. Professor Susanne Lundin studies and exposes the extensive and dangerous international trade in human organs. This quote from one of those who sold an organ made a deep impression on me: “Next time I will donate my other kidney”. In the same way, I will never forget the international student who, when asked what it meant to her to get a scholarship and get into Lund University, answered: “It has changed my entire life”. This is something of the heart of Lund University, changing and improving people’s lives. Another similar example: Just a few weeks after a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan for 120 000 Syrian refugees, half of whom were children, I had the privilege of welcoming Syrian students to Lund University. It is tremendous to be a part of this and contribute to a better world. The rich student life in Lund also makes a major contribution and is probably half the reason why Lund University is so attractive. Our students organised a brilliant Lundakarnevalen (Lund Carnival) a couple of weeks ago. It was a large and splendid festival and the University is very grateful for the work put in. The police also praised the students and only had to deal with a few cases of drunkenness, of which two were people from Uppsala. The comment from the police was that “they were no doubt bored”. There are many valuable student initiatives through the students’ unions, nations and the Academic Society (AF), which collaborate under the umbrella organisation Studentlund. There are an increasing number of charity initiatives, such as Student 4 Charity that is building schools in Africa, Alkoholfria studenter, which has started the temperance association UNF Revolutionär Godtemplarungdom, and Light, a project run by Lundaekonomerna to support the homeless in Lund.
We are also very grateful that the Government has finally given international students good opportunities to stay and work in Sweden after graduation. We are also very grateful to all our friends who are supporting us in our fundraising campaign ahead of our 350th anniversary. We are collecting for areas including scholarships for non-European students. More and more people are making either large or small gifts. All contributions are welcome.
Mats Paulsson; the University in particular wishes to honour and show its gratitude to you for the extraordinary and extremely valuable work you have done and do for Lund University by awarding you Lund University’s Gold Medal. The basis for the award is as follows: Mats Paulsson is awarded the Lund University Gold Medal for his extraordinary work on the formation and development of Medicon Village, where Lund University, Region Skåne and a large number of companies and other organisations have located some of their activities and now collaborate in the spirit of the triple helix. The centre is an entirely new concept, with the returns from the premises going to research in life science, which will be a major, continuous asset to Lund University.
Lastly, many thanks to our dedicated students, who have created Studentlund and increased the attraction of our university, and who along with our staff and friends help us to build a world-class university that works to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.
Many thanks to you all!